Ronald McDonald House

“You and me against the world”

August, 2004

By Gene Davis

The day Erlynn Romolor gave birth to her daughter Amber some 14 years ago, doctors knew there were problems. Soon, Amber was diagnosed with a condition called Tetralogy of Fallot, a complex congenital heart defect preventing enough oxygen from reaching her system. “She was eight days old when she had her first bypass,” recalled Erlynn. “When she was two, doctors in San Diego replaced a defective heart valve.” Soon after, Amber’s arteries needed to be shored up but she was too young to endure existing procedures. In a daring, lifesaving treatment, doctors in San Diego performed an experimental therapy never tried before that involved the insertion of stents to allow oxygen to flow through her weakened arteries. “It was her only hope,” said Erlynn. This first-of-its-kind surgery attracted national attention and Erlynn was interviewed for the NBC Evening News.

Erlynn Romolor with daughter Amber Mendiola
Erlynn Romolor with daughter Amber Mendiola
The operation was a success, but treatment for her condition became ongoing and complicated. During the following 12 years, Amber has endured a series of procedures and surgeries to address many heart-related issues. It was one of those procedures that brought the pair to Hawaii’s Ronald McDonald House on June 25.

Amber’s San Diego doctors met them in Honolulu and they performed another important stent insertion. A projected two-hour operation lasted four and a half hours, causing Erlynn many anxious moments. But it went well and after Amber’s convalescence at Ronald McDonald House, she and mom returned to Saipan on July 20 to the waiting arms of their family.

“It has been a long and challenging road,” Erlynn reflected. “All of these things have made us so close. You know that song, ‘You and Me Against the World’? That’s what it felt like to us sometimes. But we have faith. God only gives you what he knows you can handle.”

That is the medical side of Amber’s life, and her challenges are not over yet. In the next year she will need a pacemaker implanted and have additional stents placed in arteries leading to her lungs. But as we learned while they were staying at the House, there is much more to the story than just that. The young woman that Amber has become, despite her medical condition, is the real tale. Optimistic, kind, and curious, Amber has an infectious enthusiasm for everything she does and Erlynn is fiercely proud of her daughter. “Amber is sweet, responsible, selfless…everybody else comes first,” she says.

And then there is her musical talent. Amber is a singer/songwriter and performs professionally with her mother’s group, Tropic Sette. She has also been featured in two solo concerts for her Saipan fans.

Amber is a prolific songwriter, even penning two new tunes while staying at the Ronald McDonald House—one being a farewell song, which she sang for the appreciative families and staff before leaving. Her next goal is to complete her first CD before the end of the year, which will feature her singing her own originals and mom signing backup vocals. “She comes from a musical family,” Erlynn pointed out. “Her father is the top lead guitar player in Saipan.”

Despite all their travels and hospital stays, this was the first time they had stayed at a Ronald McDonald House. “When we first arrived we were already homesick,” Erlynn explained, on the day before they left for home. “But now we are really sad to leave because we have gotten so close to the other families.” Being here has really made me appreciate my kids. The children are so sick and I just wish I could do something to take it all away. But I can’t. All I can do is pray.

“I want to thank the RMH staff for caring so much, for their warm hospitality—everyone is just like family. I now know the true meaning of Ohana. I’ll never forget everything that they have done for me and my family.” §

More RMHC–HI Stories: